Viewing a painting by artists like Jean Tinguely or Andy Warhol once meant going to a museum or gallery. Now, thanks to a collaboration between the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center, Charlotte-area residents can view the works of those artists and more along city streets, parks and greenways.
Inside|Out, a national program funded by the Knight Foundation, is a community-activated art project that places high-quality reproductions of artworks in neighborhoods across selected cities — including Charlotte. The initiative is part of the Knight Foundation’s national effort to stoke art appreciation, including in communities not accustomed to visiting galleries and museums.
“There’s something very powerful about seeing works of art in person,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “You become completely immersed. Inside|Out brings that experience to people, directly in their communities.”
Sharon Holm, director of marketing and communications at the Bechtler, said bringing programs like this to Charlotte is important because they introduce artists in communities that might not otherwise be exposed to their work.
“People love it,” said Holm. “It makes art more accessible to communities that may not have access to it in the museums. People really appreciate it. It also gives them a reason to come into the museums and see more of the collections and artwork both institutions have on view.”
Inside|Out Charlotte Project Manager Alexys Taylor, who also serves as the Gantt Center’s collections and exhibitions manager, said the program has been effective at piquing the community’s interest in art.
In order for a community to become a designated site, an advocate, resident or some other representative from that community must apply on its behalf. Taylor said establishing those key relationships also serves to connect the arts community with all of Charlotte, which leads to more collaboration with community-based programs, such as The Abandon Project, a local nonprofit dedicated to working with youth and their families.
A Saturday block party
On a recent Saturday in east Charlotte, local artists representing the Gantt and Bechtler corralled a group of about 70 children at the Wallace Woods Apartments for an afternoon of art appreciation. The event also included food, music, dancing, basketball and community fellowship.
Nearby, adjacent to a pubic basketball court, stood the latest Inside|Out Charlotte exhibit — a piece titled “Protect” from Miya Bailey’s Immortal series, which is currently on display at the Gantt Center.
The “block party” was held in conjunction with The Abandon Project.
Josh Meadows, founder of The Abandon Project, said partnering with Inside|Out Charlotte to host the event was just one of the many ways his nonprofit is working to create goodwill in neighborhoods that face social and economic challenges.
“We are all about love,” he said. “Our mission is to get out into these communities that have been forgotten and looked over and help them thrive. We want to see families restored. We want to see kids with reading and tutoring buddies. We want some of the older kids to learn job skills. We just come in, and meet them where they are. We love and encourage them.”
The Wallace Woods Apartments, just off Independence Boulevard, are owned and managed by the Charlotte Housing Authority.
Reaching back to help others
Like many of the children he seeks to inspire, Meadows grew up without his father, but he said he chose to focus on the positives in his life. He founded the Abandon Project in 2012 and now reaches about 100 kids.
“Growing up, I was fortunate to have coaches and mentors to look out for me and teach me about being a man,” he said.
Holm, the Bechtler’s director of marketing and communications, said Inside|Out Charlotte also seeks to inspire…but through the medium of art.
At the Wallace Woods Apartments, young residents learned about art appreciation and worked together, with help of Guerilla Poets and Charlotte-born artist Sloan Siobhan, to create a mural. (Siobhan’s series Archetypes of the Subconscious is currently on display at the Gantt Center.)
“I love doing things like this,” Siobhan said. “It helps kids in black communities see that art is not something that’s lame. It’s actually really cool, and it’s not just for elite people. Anybody can do it. You don’t have to have money to be an artist.”
Siobhan said her young students aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“It also encourages me,” she said. “It makes me feel like I have a purpose.”
Want to see more art in your community?
Applications are now being accepted for the 2018 Inside|Out season. The program is asking community representatives, businesses and arts organizations interested in participating to apply online before the deadline, January 10, 2018.